Coffee House

Pickles refuses to disclose government number of Romanians and Bulgarians set to come to UK

13 January 2013

The Europe debate is raging in the Sunday papers ahead of Cameron’s speech on the matter. There’s mounting concern among Tory Cabinet Ministers that the speech will not go far enough and will simply inflame the situation. One told me, ‘It would be better to make no speech than to disappoint.’

But I suspect that Tory spin doctors will be concerned about a second Europe story this Sunday, Eric Pickles’ confirmation under questioning from Andrew Neil that the government has a number for how many Romanians and Bulgarians are expected to move here from December 2013 when EU transition controls come to an end:


Pickles, normally a sure-footed media performer, said ‘I don’t think anybody entirely knows the number that are going to come from Bulgaria or from Romania’. But he went on to predict, ‘influxes in the east of London’. He also said that the government has a figure but that he’s not prepared to release it yet, ‘I’ve been given a figure, I’m not confident on the figure, and until I’m confident on the figure I’m not going to quote a figure.’

The government will now come under significant pressure to release this figure. Given that the transition controls expire in December, one would have thought that the government’s planning would be at a more advanced stage than this.

Transcript of the exchange from The Sunday Politics

Andrew Neil: “Let me move on to another issue because it affects the extra demand for housing. And much of the extra demand we’ve seen in the last decade came from record immigration. Now that could intensify despite the government’s efforts to try and curb the figure, in a year’s time 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will be free to move and live and work in the UK if they want. Hasn’t the Home Office given you any estimate of how many are actually expected to come in the next couple of years?

Eric Pickles: The truth is I don’t think anybody entirely knows the number that are going to come from Bulgaria or from Romania.

AN: So have you had a guesstimate from the Home Office?

EP: I’ve had no discussions with the Home Office with regard to the numbers.

AN: So if you have no idea of the numbers, which I think follows from what you’ve said, does that mean you’ve not been able to do any preliminary work on what their housing needs might be?

EP: Well we do know of a number of boroughs that have a higher than average number of Romanians so I would expect to see influxes in the east of London, that’s predominately where they are now.

AN: But have you done any preliminary work on the implications for our housing demand as a result of this extra immigration?

EP: I know a number of London boroughs are doing it and it’s something that we’re actively engaged in.

AN: But have you not done any?

EP: Yes, we have done some.

AN: And what’s the consequence, how many are you planning for?

EP: That’s not something that I think will be helpful in terms of to go through the numbers just yet.

AN: Why?

EP: Because I think you’d have to have a degree of confidence in terms of the numbers before I’d publicly state them and one of the reasons that I’ve asked for fresh information is to make sure that before I make a public statement with regard to these that I’m confident on the numbers.

AN: So like 2004 when the then government told us only about 15,000 would come from Poland and Latvia and so on and it turned out to be 750,000 over a couple of years, this could be another disaster in the making.

EP: Well, in fairness to Michael Howard he pretty much got the figures exactly right. I am not –

AN: So will you get them exactly right this time?

EP; That’s why I’m reluctant to give a figure now until I’m absolutely confident about the figures being offered to me.

AN: Well let’s have an idea of the ball park, cos your Tory MP colleagues, Philip Hollobone, he said, let’s make the assumption that they come at the same rate as they did from Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania, and he said if you do that we’re talking about an extra 300,000 Romanians and Bulgarians. Is that a reasonable working assumption?

EP: No, I don’t think it is a reasonable working assumption.

AN: Why not?

EP: Because I need to be sure about the figures before I make a public pronouncement. That hasn’t changed in the last two minutes.

AN: Let’s be honest here, Mr Pickles, do you have any idea how many Romanians and Bulgarians will come?

EP: I’ve been given a figure, I’m not confident on the figure, and until I’m confident on the figure I’m not going to quote a figure.

AN: Can you give us the ball park for the figure? These are matters that would put huge strain on the housing stock if it’s a big figure.

EP: Perhaps I wasn’t very clear, so let me be absolutely clear. I’ve seen figures, I wasn’t confident with those figures. I’ve asked for a further explanation and when I’ve got that explanation and when I feel confident about the figures then I’ll talk about the figures.

AN: Does the figure you’ve been given worry you?

EP: When I am confident about the figures I will express my confidence or worries.

AN: But do you accept that this could present another major increase in housing demand in a country where this already a major housing shortage?

EP: Given that we’ve got a housing shortage, any influx from Romania and Bulgaria is going to cause problems and it’s going to cause problems not just in terms of the housing market, but also on social housing markets. But one of the reasons why I’m not prepared to start a scare story going is that I think we need to be reasonably confident about the figures.”

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  • Framer

    Eric is plainly underknowledged as well as avoiding telling us the magic figure. Given that the government has admitted that three times the number of Romanians they count as immigrants (for the target figure) actually manage to turn up in person to collect national insurance numbers, we can’t assume it has any meaningful substance.

    He also has this quaint notion that Romanian gather in east London. Have his statisticians not told him there is a fairly even spread across the UK. We were told of 2000 in Rotherham during the forgotten UKIP fostering crisis for example.
    BTW what happened to that urgent report Millipede called for?.

  • Fergus Pickering

    It is gypsies we are talking about, isn’t it? Thieves and vagabonds. Doctors, teachers and other members of the rerspectable middle class we don’t mind. But we have quite enough thieves and vagabonds of our own without importing them from the land of Dracula, thank you very much.

  • Youbian

    welfare state, open borders, the world’s poor = disaster for the people, gross betrayal by trecherous politicians who will never personally be affected

    • Tom Tom

      Welfare State has to go. If the top 5% pay 47% Income Tax and 50% Income Tax Revenue pays State Pensions that means on PAYG principles 5% Workforce are paying 25% population their weekly pension. The fact that Britain has the best-remunerated Unskilled and Unworking Population on the planet means a low-wage low-productivity economy gives a high-standard of living to lower-skilled and non-working to have large families

    • Colonel Mustard

      Yes. This is going to be a disaster. But in typical British government fashion instead of courage now there will be panic stations later.

  • Tom Tom

    Better to surprise us really…….it gets boring knowing how many are going to arrive, much prefer to trip over them on the street

    • Boudicca_Icenii

      When you do, check your pockets. You will probably find your wallet has gone walkabout.

      • Tom Tom

        Trip over them already……there’s are lots here even without being invited

  • barbie

    I watched Pickles, he was flustered with his answers, didn’t really look comfortable at all, and didn’t really answer what he was asked. Its obvious, we will see an influx, unless they are stopped, and EU laws might have something to say about that, but so should Cameron too. We are over crowded, there are no houses, we have none for our own. We don’t have school places they are full up; and the services we do have are so stretched they will break under the strain. Any sensible government, who as the responsiblity for it’s own, would stop more coming in especially these people, who are uneducated and offer nothing but costs and crime for this country. I was suprised to see Pickles in such a pickle, he had no real answers to give. We will see the onslaught and we will have the same problems as when Labour were in, with immigrant overload and public rage. It should be stopped and the EU told we cannot accomodate these people therefore none will be allowed in. If they protest, well they can have them, we don’t want them. You cannot keep filling this country up and nothing happening, we just cannot afford them anymore, and they should not recieve one penny in benefits. Crime is about to increase and my advice to all householders, it invest in good alarm systems for your homes, you’ll need them.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Having relaxed their restrictions last year on A8 accession countries, Germany is in desperate need of the open door safety valve to the UK for A2 Romanian and Bulgarians.

    No wonder, as a good European, a UK Govt Minister refuses to discuss the matter with his own public.

    There will, however, be some benefit to us. 300,000 extra ‘self employed’ Big Issue sellers will provide a wonderful vibrant opportunity to fill even more hard to let empty social housing that we are so plagued with.

  • alexsandr

    This issue will overshadow camerons non speech on the EU. It is another stick to beat the EU up with.
    another 2 points on UKIPs lead I think

  • Peshun

    Segregation did not work for South Africa, yet many are happy to have it in the EU.

    If the mountain (Western investment) will not come to Muhammad (Bulgaria and Romania), then Muhammad must go to the mountain.

    • MirthaTidville

      Or better still find ways of stopping Muhammad coming to the mountain

      • Peshun

        The Great British Wall perhaps, that was already tried by the Romanians, back in Hadrian’s time.

      • Daniel Maris

        Why does Muhammad want to come to the infidel mountain in the first place?

    • HooksLaw

      The point of EU regional funds is to assist places like Romania. Your analogy is flawed.

      The simple fact is that where we have widely different countries, economic circumstances, different economies tax structures policies and standards of living then forcing immigration onto countries can have a host of bad consequences on the host nations working population.
      This is not to say that host countries cannot allow the immigration if they want but that they should be able to manage immigration to suit their own perceived needs.

      For those in work the benefits of immigrant cheap and hard working labour may be many, but the victims are the poor and the unemployed.

      This makes it hard to understand why Labour favour such a policy.

      • Daniel Maris

        I thought you liked being in the EU, Hookslaw. Everything in that response suggests you don’t.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          To be fair, he has never shown any love for the undemocratic bureaucracy in question. It’s just that his loyalties will not allow him to be off-message on tory policy.

          • Noa

            And self denial is mental self-abuse.

      • Peshun

        So let me see if I am getting this right, freely mixing rich and poor will inconvenience the poorer amongst the rich the most, hence there should be segregated poorer EU nationals.

        You are just proving my analogy.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          We can’t solve our own poverty problems by importing poor people. We already have enough. The solution is to make Romania and Bulgaria richer. They have to do that for themselves, because that is the only way that works. The successful countries of the Far East did not get there by exporting people and skills.

          • Peshun

            You cannot grow anything if you do not have seeds. Britain was the biggest beneficiary from the Marshal Plan, yet it refuses to help its fellow Europeans. Compare that to Germany which invested heavily in the regeneration of Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Czech R) and its economy has benefited from that just like the American economy benefited back in the day. Building walls around your wealth is not a way to fight poverty.

            • Hexhamgeezer

              You really don’t have any coherent arguments do you?


                I would suggest that you go and live in Germany if you believe that they are better team players than the UK. There is no such thing as an EU national. The EU is not a nation, and will never be. So trying to use the rights integral to a nation at the level of different nations united only by geography is a false argument.

            • Boudicca_Icenii

              Thre’s a very good reason why Germany has invested heavily in the regeneration of Eastern Europe. It’s called World War 2.

          • Tom Tom

            Ask Turks about Romanians and Bulgarians……they know their neighbours

      • Colonel Mustard

        “This makes it hard to understand why Labour favour such a policy.”

        After Neathergate it is perfectly clear. They see immigrants as votes and votes as power. Plus they get to destroy all those aspects of English society and culture that they hate most – and “to rub the right’s nose in diversity” whilst feeling good about extending a hand to the foreign “poor”. At the moment they are juggling what they really want with the need to appeal to those people concerned about the scale of immigration under the last government. So weasel words to appease and deceive.

        As usual with Labour what they say is not what you will get.

      • Tom Tom

        EU Regional Funds disappeared into Mafia pockets. Go look at EU reports into Romania and Bulgaria and their kleptocracy

    • Colonel Mustard

      Weird logic. This is not about some silly amorphous concept such as “Western investment” but about England and her people as a (once) sovereign nation. Why should the prevention of their destruction be predicated on a responsibility to enrich foreign countries? If the EU is so great why is Romania still impoverished anyway? What exactly has our £45 million a day been spent on?

      • Peshun

        This sovereign nation voted in a referendum to join the then EEC. It joined a team and a true team helps all its members, through good or bad.

        Romania, like Spain, Portugal or the UK will take time to come through the hard times, if it is treated fairly and generously, like all other members.

        • Hexhamgeezer

          We didn’t vote to join, we voted to confirm membership.

          As for teams, who’s helping us?


            I’ve never been able to vote on being part of any team. And the EEC was not the EU. When we get a chance to vote you will discover that we don’t want to be part of this team.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Yes, to join the EEC – but it is no longer just the EEC. We voted to join a Common Market for economic ease and opportunity not to become subject citizens of Herman Van Rompuy and his ilk. Not so we could be told what light bulbs we must use and to be bombarded with directives, regulations and red tape dreamed up by a bunch of gravy train European bureaucrats who have nothing better to do. I don’t like it. And I don’t have to like it. It has happened without my consent.

          There is a simple problem here. That we cannot accommodate and cannot afford another huge wave of benefit seeking immigration.

          • Daniel Maris

            The EEC Referendum…

            It was a bit like a beautiful woman, past the first bloom of youth, in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic (=inflation/industrial strife) and suffering from low self-esteem (=End of Empire) who, out of desperation, agrees to take up with a guy who seems strong, dependable and with a good income…but then she finds out he’s a controlling type, obsessively telling her what to do, and not as clever as he seemed at first…and full of character flaws.

            • Peshun

              A girl can change her mind, but Britain has been changing her mind and yet not leaving the EU since the time of the lady who was not for turning. This permanent state of going around in circles shows neither character nor strength, just volatility. Flaws and problems are there to be dealt with, not hide away from, thus we evolved.

          • Peshun

            Germany accommodated large numbers of British builders and handymen working through the 70s, 80s and 90s, are you saying Britain is less capable.?

            • Colonel Mustard

              Is that what I’m saying? Let me re-read my comment. No. Can’t see any suggestion there that Britain is less capable than Germany.

              How many builders? On the scale of immigration we have seen here thanks to New Labour and that we are likely to see in 2014? Don’t think so.

              The question left open is what exactly is your interest in wanting to see the country swamped with unemployed foreigners seeking benefits? Please don’t say altruism!

              • Peshun

                You chose to describe Bulgarians and Romanians as “benefit seeking immigration”, but they are no different to the vast majority of British people working and living throughout the EU.

        • Boudicca_Icenii

          “Helping” doesn’t include being swamped with hundreds of thousands of benefit tourists – all demanding social housing; NHS treatment; state education; welfare and anything else they can get for nothing in the land of “free everything.”

    • bombastlee

      “Segregation did not work for South Africa, yet many are happy to have it in the EU.”— Andre Botha of the farmers’ union Agri SA says there have been 11,785
      attacks and 1,804 farmers murdered since the ANC assumed power, an
      average of two murders per week. ‘Working’ might be one of those words that operates best on a sliding scale.

      • Koakona

        I used to live in RSA and all the whites I knew thought apartheid was working fine for them, the new setup is just a Rwanda in the waiting, except white man will be on the end of this machete.

        • Koakona

          Actually several “coloureds” thought it was better than black majority rule. I will leave the moral judgement to the inevitable shrieking lefties.

        • Peshun

          I have lived in Southern Africa for 4 years back in the 70s and 80s and South Africa had the highest murder rate then just as it does now. The crime rate is a legacy of Apartheid, surrounding countries like Botswana, Namibia or Mozambique have much lower crime rates.

  • wrinkledweasel

    A loony and a racist weirdo (me) writes:

    I am concerned about the number of culturally dissonant persons who may appear in Britain, without visible means of support.

    Sorry about my views. I know I am in dire need of cognitive re-orientation.

    I love Mr Rumpy Pumpy.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes things like that are only allowed to be said in ministerial meetings behind closed doors, with minutes to be released in 30 years when it will be too late for anyone to do anything about it.

  • alleagra

    I have a Romanian doctor friend currently training to be a GP in the UK. Doctors in Romania earn around 4K to 10K pounds per month (UK average is 66K pa). Unless Romania becomes much richer in the future (unlikely on present policies) it’ll be difficult to find a doctor in Romania in 10-20 years when the current generation have retired. What would you do as a young Romanian doctor? One wonders how it is that Britain is evidently unable to find sufficiently well -educated young British nationals to train in medicine.

    • Noa

      The immediate concern is not an influx of Roumanian doctors, socially reprehensible though that may be.

      It is that their loyal patients intend to follow them en masse.

    • Tom Tom

      so a Romanian doctor earns £48,000-£120,000 pa against a UK doctor on £66,0000 and he is worse trained….sounds like the BMA will be going for a pay rise

      • alleagra

        Thanks for pointing that out. It should be per year of course.

  • John Smith

    Sign the petition to prevent Romanians and Bulgarian from coming to the UK:

    • HooksLaw

      All these immigrants are also eligible to work in Norway. Switzerland has a trreaty obligation too, but is dragging its feet. Having said that about 1.1 million EU citizens live there out of a population of 8 million.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Er, it won’t be work that the majority come here for. At least not work as you and I understand. The UK is well known as a “soft touch”. The huge influx of Vietnamese boat people into Hong Kong when other Asoan countries were turning them away was predicated on that.

        This government, like most British governments, would rather put up with any amount of disruption and destruction to our economy and society than risk, heaven forbid, the world thinking we were being beastly to foreigners.

        Fat headed, short sighted, ignorant, cowardly and utterly negligent of their responsibilities.

        • Tom Tom

          British Governments despise the British population treating them much as the Ascendancy in Ireland treated the peasants

      • Tom Tom

        Yes but Britain is very lax with no Registration System or Housing Permit system. You Hook’s Law have clearly never worked in other countries which are not quite so easy as in the UK

    • MirthaTidville

      Many thanks for that..Hope everyone has

  • HooksLaw

    So ‘refuses’ means not knowing? ‘Refuses’ means not being willing to release unreliable information? ‘RFefuasl’ means not being willing to start a scare story.
    Ah well we can trust the Spectator to manage that.
    Your headline is as ever totally misleading to the point of libel.

    • Noa

      Mischievous, perhaps.
      Which is what journalists should do. Challenge, provoke, dig. Make politicians uncomfortable, report, then publish. And be damned for it.

      But it lets the reader decide what his motives are

  • Austin Barry

    So what have we got?

    (a) a housing shortage;

    (b) massive unemployment;

    (b) Tower of Babel inner city schools;

    (c) a crazy system of benefits.

    So what do we do – what does the EU require us to do?

    Supinely anticipate the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians starting within a year.


    • HooksLaw

      People emigrate as well as ‘immigrate’. Whats important is that they integrate. what is sad is that these people will take work from brits and not lounge on benefits.
      Its only from 2011 that immigrants from the 2004 group of accession countries have been able to claim benefits.

      Certainly your own words will have the entire world queuing up to get into the UK.

      • Daniel Maris

        Yes, but the immigration-emigration balance is not necessarily the same across the whole of the country. Most of the immigration is going into London and the south. The emigration is probably much more evenly spread.

      • Noa

        And the emigrants are mostly indigenees, not of recent ex Empire or Soviet Bloc stock.
        And they are what used to be called, with good reason, the ‘salt of the earth”.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        Yes. But we lose educated, qualified and valuable British citizens and instead we get poorly educated welfare tourists.

        • Tom Tom

          The Marxist Dream in a Socialist Republic…..Britain is more like Cuba than Japan

        • George_Arseborne

          Could you tell us what percentage of welfare claimants are foreign nationals? I am a bit confuse here with series of complains. When it comes to jobs all goes to foreigners, then on welfare claimants, foreigners again are to blame. Something must be wrong somehow. So you better decide on what to accuse who and stop all this rubbish blame on immigrants

      • dalai guevara

        exactly Hook…queuing to get into the UK, and thus other countries are bleeding dry. Now, which of the two is in control, the one that bleeds, or the one that attracts?

    • Daniel Maris

      Yep, a neat summary.

  • UlyssesReturns

    I have been to Romania and to Bulgaria and if I was born and raised there, and had a chance to go to England and access its welfare, then I would do so. If more than 50,000 come here it will be too many but the reality is likely to be more than 5-10 times that number making central London even more unbearable than it currently is. Many Romanians and Bulgarians are excellent people, but the vast majority are not what I would consider to be ideal additions to our already disrupted society. This is like a slow train crash where the train is carrying a radioctive cargo that will contaminate the environment for centuries.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes, I’ve had Romanian friends. There’s nothing wrong with Romanians, just that for us their arrival en masse means we become poorer, not richer.


        I love Romanians and I am presently learning Romanian, but that doesn’t mean it is good for any of us to have hundreds of thousands more entering the country.

        • telemachus

          Do not believe that migrants put “pressures on scarce resources such as housing and schools”. But migrants make much less use of public services—and pay more taxes to fund them.

          In 2008-9, eastern European migrants made up 0.91 percent of the population. But they accounted for just 0.6 percent of public spending—while paying 0.96 percent of the total tax collected.

          They paid an estimated 1.3 percent of all VAT. And remember all the migrants whose work makes public services possible.

          • Tom Tom

            If migrant slave labour is needed to run public services it suggests we have expanded them too far. Currently we have more “public services” than we can afford and BORROW £120 billion each year to sustain them. We need to cut our coat according to our cloth

            • telemachus

              No but if we invest for growth as well the boom created will need more immigration to fuel our increasing prosperity

              • Hexhamgeezer


          • Colonel Mustard

            Go away.

          • Gary Gimson

            And also sent large portions of their earnings back to Eastern Europe (which, of course, is their right) so the UK economy did not benefit in quite the same way as if British workers was employed to do the same jobs and then spent all their money here.

    • telemachus

      Bulgarians are hard-working and entrepreneurial. They have a strong work ethic, making them sought-after workers in the EU and other countries. Their attention to service and to the customer is a valuable and recognised asset, and companies large and small benefit from this. Indeed, one suspects Bulgaria benefits from this work ethic and is developing irrespective of government, foreign aid, and “mutri” and others interference and self-interest. My assessment of the Bulgarian people is that with much enthusiasm and flair they will make a future that is not bright but glowing. However, despite their hopes and the opportunities, national and local government may unwittingly stifle them. This appears apparent from casual observation that appears to indicate a lack of both national government stewardship and municipal management of infrastructure: it might be why tourism is falling and repeat business is absent.

      • Tom Tom Bulgaria is a Mafia State and has extended its tentacles into Britain. Lenin was right about “Useful Idiots” and should have awarded an Order of Lenin to Tel Boy

      • Colonel Mustard

        I hope a whole shanty town full of them sets up round your house.

      • parisclaims

        If they are so entrepeneural and hard working …..
        a) why is their country poverty stricken?
        b) why would you want to deprive the remaining Bulgarians of these huge contributors to their own society?
        Bit like slavery if you think about it

        • telemachus

          They need our environment to prosper as we need them to grow

      • Gary Gimson

        A gross generalisation, I fear. Nothing wrong with Bulgarians per se, but let’s not delude ourselves that every last man jack of them can be described in such glowing terms – the same goes for any other nation, including ours.

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